I wish I had a penny for every time a student in London schools has asked me “Why are all our supply teachers Australian?” Apparently we are everywhere: Australian teachers who have come over to London for a great daily pay rate and a heap of holidays to go see Europe.

I never used to have any interest in living in London, but after finishing my teaching qualifications at the end of last year I decided to head to London as a base to do some travelling before settling into work in Australia. With no teaching experience I was a little concerned about picking up work in London, but the teaching agencies all assured me that I would be able to find work quite easily.

I arrived in London at the end of January this year after living in Coffs Harbour for the past few years. I knew arriving in the middle of winter would be a little tough, but it was still quite a shock to the system to go from 30 degree days to 1 degree days. Needless to say the day after I arrived I went on a shopping spree for warm clothes (how naive was I to think that gloves are a luxury not a necessity?). I had offers to stay with friends of friends in London, but I felt a little uncomfortable about staying on the couch of someone I didn’t know so I stayed in a hostel in central London. This is definitely something I would have done differently given my time again – staying in dorm rooms with cold showers and filthy kitchens is not a heap of fun, especially when you are getting up in the dark each morning to go to work.

I had planned to do supply work but in my first week of looking for work I went to a job interview through teachweb. I liked the staff and support I got from the school, so I accepted a long term supply position up until summer break. Rick had warned me that it was a challenging group of students at the school and they didn’t disappoint. Looking back I had completely thrown myself in the deep end (new career, new country, new school), but I had great support from the school and great teachers around me to offer advice and support. It was an extremely steep learning curve but a great teaching experience.

Once the summer started I was off travelling and seeing Europe for the first time. Since February I have been to Paris, Italy, Croatia, Budapest, Prague, Holland and Finland, as well as some sightseeing in and around London. Paris and Italy were unbelievably beautiful, Croatia was a heap of fun and Holland was the most laid back and relaxed place I have ever been.

Finland was probably the best holiday as I stayed with a local and so got to really experience the local culture. We spent most of the holiday in the country staying in their summer cottage fishing, swimming in the lake and eating (way too much) great food and experiencing traditional Finnish saunas. Sitting in a sauna with a whole bunch of women, all of us completely nude, slapped each others backs with birch leaves was not exactly what I imagined as part of my holiday, but the ‘when in Rome…’ philosophy to travelling had worked well so far so I thought I should run with it. Unlike France and Italy I had no chance of speaking the Finnish language, although my attempts brought lots of entertainment to the people I stayed with.

As far as London goes, it has been so much better than I imagined. Contrary to popular belief, London does actually see a lot of sun over the summer months and after a cold winter the place absolutely comes alive when the sun is out. London pubs have great beer gardens (why they do beer gardens better than Australia is still a mystery to me), awesome parks everywhere to sunbake in and kick a footy, and great outdoor markets (especially Camden markets) which are absolutely buzzing with such a diverse range of people. Being such a big city there is always something fun to do, with my favourite experiences so far being the rugby 7’s tournament at Twickenham (dress up beach theme, rugby, no line up to get a beer and great people make for a great day out), Kings of Leon in Hyde Park and rowing on the Thames (definitely no Sydney Harbour but it is still nice to be on the water nonetheless).

So for any teachers out there considering the move to London, my advice is to book your tickets now! This is the quietest time for work and I have still had plenty of work, there are lots of other travellers in London and a whole heap of fun to be had. My opinion may be slightly different after a full winter here, but at the moment I am loving it.

Written by Sarah for teachweb

After arriving at the school I was totally stoked to have actually got there without getting hopelessly lost. Id used a combination of the Transport for London website and my A to Z of London to navigate my way there.

All the horror stories of London schools came to mind as I approached the gate and spoke to one of several security guards that were checking out the kids for who knows what as they entered the school. The outside of the school resembled more of a prison than the schools I was used to. Added to this I was feeling extremely uncomfortable having ditched my Havaianas, boardies and singlet only days before for a Thailand special, fake Armani shirt, tie, suit pants and closed in shoes. Entering the school I was given a timetable and told “good luck” as I was directed to a classroom at the end of an overcrowded corridor.

These first few lessons went quite smoothly, I can’t say we completed all that much of the dodgy cover work that had been left for me, but I can’t imagine their permanent teacher expected much when all she had left was a boring textbook that pupils were expected to read then copy into their books. Hardly innovative stuff, so it wasn’t long before I turned from teacher to entertainer and told travel stories and answered questions about Australia and Tasmania just to keep them in their seats.

After lunch my senior class was a whole new ball game. Upon entering the class I noticed that just as with the other classes I had, had that day the majority of pupils were immigrants from the West Indies. We seemed to hit a language barrier early whereas despite the fact these kids were speaking English they may as well have been talking Chinese. There wasn’t much of what they said that I could understand.

I am not sure if it’s because these kids were older and had heard all the Aussie cover teacher stories before or if they were just hell bent on not listening to a word I said but this lesson was promising to be a battle from the start. The majority of pupils refused to take out their work. Then these same students refused to take out their diaries so I could check their names should they misbehave. The whole lesson from then started to take a downward spiral when after having exhausted all my behavioural management strategies I sent a responsible looking pupil off to get the deputy principle, of course he didn’t return. So I sent another student, this time managing to get his diary and name beforehand to ensure the job got done. So this lesson dragged on and on and I used all my time putting out spot fires, returning stolen pencil cases, settling down arguments, even breaking up a few push and shove matches. There still was no sign of any support from senior staff and with the perpetrators staying unidentifiable it was clear they would get away with their behaviours.

When the lesson finally finished I felt like I had run a marathon and it was then that I came across the deputy relaxing and chatting in the staffroom with a cup of tea in hand. She mentioned some sort of apology for not helping to sort out my problem lesson. It this stage I didn’t really care if I ever went back to this school again so I just thanked her for the support and kept on my way.

This scenario might sound familiar to anyone who has heard stories or knows of anyone who has taught in the UK. However for me it was really the only negative teaching experience I have had in the 12months that ive been teaching here so I would like to urge people to hold their judgement on teaching overseas until you have experienced it for yourself. As it turned out the next day i was sent out to a Boys Sports College where I was asked back everyday to teach PE for the next 6 months. Then when the new school year started in September I picked up a permanent position as a Head of Phys Ed in a High School literally 50 metres from my apartment. I think the best way to approach teaching in London is to never lose sight of your main motivation for being here. Then whatever experience whether good or bad is just that, an experience, at worse you might have a good story to tell when you get back home.

Written by Matt for teachweb

After 6 months teaching in Melbourne, I decided to see what London had to offer. I guess the hardest part was getting used to the dark at 4 in the afternoon, luckily school finishes by about 3.30 pm! My idea in London was to do as much of everything as possible, and that almost literally translated to mean all subject areas. My first 9 week supply teaching post was at a Catholic boys school, teaching mainly music, with some RE and English. Of course, the catch….it was THEORY music….unfortunately, there was no SISTER ACT style singing with this bunch, although it felt more like we were in 8 Mile, the boys loving to “clash” whenever possible. I came away from that job with a surprisingly nice Poetry book my Year 7’s had made, and a lot of reflection on boys education.

I then made a living out of being a supply teacher (emergency teacher) in just one school in South London. This basically meant guaranteed work everyday, not much marking and some of the days work given to me. No pens or no book was the most common answer to as many questions as possible, and many a lesson learnt, more often I was the one learning, I’d have to say!! The director of the agency I worked for, Rick, had actually worked in this school, so was always available for a helping hand, or advice when needed. I loved the free comedy nights with teachweb, a great way to relax after the school week…free beer and watching someone else getting heckled! I also had the opportunity at this school to take over the only Year 10 Leisure and Tourism class, a new subject to me, but one that the students quite enjoyed.

My next post was at a girl’s school, again in South London. Lots of girls of all different learning styles and abilities, and a very welcoming staff, some of whom I still keep in contact with. My time here was quite rewarding, especially because I stayed through until the end of the year when my year 10’s final projects had come together. I received some lovely cards and “please miss, don’t go” requests when I decided it was time to return home, after 2 and a half years away from my family and friends.

During my time overseas I made a conscious effort to use the UK term holidays to my advantage, meaning I could get out of London every 7 weeks. I traveled extensively through Europe, including Russia, Egypt, Turkey and Liechtenstein to name a few. I had such a fabulous time teaching, learning and travelling in the UK and Europe.

Sandra,  Melbourne